The inaugural 40 Under 40 Public Health Catalyst Awards aim to highlight the rising leaders and innovators of the public health field. The Boston Congress of Public Health (BCPH) and the HPHR Journal selected a group of “leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, activists”, and doctors that will inspire the next generations of public health workers to change the world. The individuals featured for this award have not only shown excellent work performance and an extensive academic history but have also brought innovative solutions to public health issues around the world.
The NYC Daily Post interviewed 40 under 40 award winners to learn about their career journeys leading up to their nominations.
Q1. What’s a piece of advice you’ve received that has impacted your career journey?
“Don’t make the reviewers work.” So much of academia involves outside reviewers assessing our work. This mantra has helped me to aim for clarity in my writing and the presentation of ideas.
Q2. Do you have a mentor you’d like to recognize? If so, what would you like to say to them?
I have benefitted from formal and informal mentorship throughout my career. It was Karolynn Siegel, however, that gave me the above advice and has imparted her wisdom to me over the years. I most appreciate her for believing in me and giving me the license to pursue my passions.
Q3. What advice would you give a young professional beginning their career in your field?
You are your own best advocate. Fight for what you believe in and put in the work.
Q4. If you could do one thing, leave one mark, on your profession, what would it be?
I would be honored if more people recognized energy insecurity as a social and public health issue worthy of further study and policy intervention.
Q5. Name a challenge you’ve faced and how it turned out.
Getting tenure as a non-traditional academic was a challenge because I’ve always identified as an underdog. In the end, I laid it all out in an authentic fashion. I was humbled and grateful for the positive reception of my work in the tenure process.
Q6. What is your ultimate career goal as you see it today?
To improve the life chances of low-income households and communities of color so that we can live up to our highest potential because our basic needs are met.
Q7. What alternate role(s) would you be interested in pursuing?
One day I would like to pursue university administration. I have more research questions to pursue, so it might be a while before I assume a leadership role in academia but it’s a long-term goal.
Q8. What core values are important to succeeding in your professional field?
Integrity, ingenuity, and an entrepreneurial spirit have served me and others in my field well.
Q9. Ten years ago, I thought I would be …
a real estate mogul.
Q10. Ten years from now, I want to be …
a change-maker in addressing the social and environmental determinants of health.
Q11. Would you want to acknowledge any family/friends/partners (beyond mentors)? If so, who?
My mother, Milagros (DeJesus) Hernández has been the ultimate role model. My husband Ausama (Sam) Abdelhadi has been my rock. Our daughter Adina is my inspiration.
Q12. Please indicate your hometown, place of study, degree field(s), and an interesting fact about yourself.
Hometown: Bronx, NY;
Places of Study: Hunter College, CUNY (BA, Sociology), and Cornell University (Ph.D., Sociology)
Interesting Fact: I know a thing or two about real estate and large-scale renovations